The effect of a mouth rinse containing phenolic compounds on plaque formation and developing gingivitis

Sekino S, Ramberg P
Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 2005


The clinical effect of Listerine, a mouth rinse containing a mixture of phenolic compounds, is ascribed to its bactericidal properties. However, phenolic compounds are also known to interfere with the inflammatory process.

The purpose of this clinical trial was to evaluate the effect of regular mouth rinsing with Listerine on plaque and gingivitis during a 2-week period of no mechanical oral hygiene.

Twenty-one subjects were recruited for the study. On Day 0 of each 2-week experimental period, the participants were told to abstain from all mechanical plaque-control measures but to rinse twice a day with 10 ml of the assigned solution (test: Listerine, positive control:0.1% chlorhexidine (CHX), negative control: saline) for 60 s. Each experimental period was preceded by a 2-week period including oral hygiene instruction, scaling and professional mechanical tooth cleaning. Examinations included assessments of plaque and gingivitis (Days 0 and 14), sampling of plaque and collection of gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) (Days 0, 7 and 14). From the supragingival plaque samples, six different morphotypes of bacteria were counted using dark-field microscopy. The GCF collected was analysed with respect to the content of lactoferrin and albumin.

During the experimental periods, it was observed that significantly less plaque formed and less gingivitis developed when the participants rinsed with the Listerine mouthwash than with saline solution. However, significantly more plaque formed during the Listerine than during the CHX rinse period, while there was no significant difference in the development of gingival bleeding between the Listerine and the CHX rinse regimens. Significantly smaller proportions of motile rods and fusiforms were found in the List and CHX groups than in the control (Ctrl) group. The increase of the lactoferrin/albumin ratio in the List group was significantly smaller than that in the Ctrl group but significantly larger than in the CHX group.

It was suggested that the effect of Listerine on gingivitis is more pronounced than on plaque formation. This indicates that the phenolic compound may have anti-inflammatory effects.


Sekino S, Ramberg P. The effect of a mouth rinse containing phenolic compounds on plaque formation and developing gingivitis. J Clin Periodontol. 2005;32(10):1083-1088.

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